Finishing Touches and the Completed Car

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Chapter 19: Finishing Touches and the Completed Car

To wrap up the build, here are some finishing touches and miscellaneous items that did not quite fit into any of the previous chapters. At the end of the chapter is a gallery of pictures displaying the completed car.

Tonneau cover[edit]

The tonneau cover design sought to achieve two goals. First, we wanted a cover that can easily swing up and lock in place for quick access to the bed. And, we wanted a cover that can easily be removed from the bed altogether whenever the need might arise.

To satisfy those two goals, "partial hinges" were fabricated (Photo 19-1). Pronged nuts were used to attach the hinges to 1/2" medium-density plywood composite, which is cut to fit the top opening of the pickup bed (Photo 19-2). The partial hinge design forms a "cup" around the front crossmember to hold the front of the tonneau cover in place (Photo 19-3). When the cover is closed, the latch and the wooden stops (arrows) prevent the rear of the cover from moving. When opened, the "partial hinges" can be pulled away from the front crossmember and completely removed from the bed.

Photo 19-1 A special "hinge" was fabricated, so that the tonneau cover can easily be removed from the bed. Photo attribution
Photo 19-2 Pronged nuts are used to fasten the hinge, so that the top can later be upholstered. Photo attribution
Photo 19-3 The partial hinges "cup" around the front crossmember of the bed. Photo attribution

The T-handled latch for the tonneau is a Stanley garage door part (Photo 19-4). A latching bar is welded to a nut, and the nut is slipped over the activation rod of the Stanley handle. The nut is secured at the appropriate height by a set screw (Photo 19-5). When the handle is turned to the closed position, the latching bar contacts a small tab welded to the rear crossmember of the bed to hold the door closed. The T-handle comes keyed, so the tonneau cover can be locked shut to protect valuables. The finished and upholstered tonneau cover is shown in Photo 19-6.

Photo 19-4 The "T" handle is originally made for a garage door, and is much cheaper than its automotive counterpart. Photo attribution
Photo 19-5 The latching mechanism. Photo attribution
Photo 19-6 The tonneau cover completed. Photo attribution

Bed floor[edit]

The bed floor is cut from oak veneer plywood, and has an access hole for the gas tank filler (Photo 19-7). A friction-fit door covers the access hole (Photo 19-8). Photo 19-9 shows the battery installed in the bed, as well as the electrical system shut-off key.

Photo 19-7 The bed floor is cut with a fuel tank access hole. Photo attribution
Photo 19-8 The bed floor installed. Photo attribution
Photo 19-9 The battery is fitted in the bed. Photo attribution

Firewall facing[edit]

Using a paper pattern, 1/8" aluminum (3003 alloy) is cut to match the firewall (Photo 19-10). The aluminum is buffed, polished and bolted in place (Photos 19-11 and 19-12).

Photo 19-10 The firewall facing is cut from 1/8" aluminum. Photo attribution
Photo 19-11 The facing polished and bolted to the firewall. Photo attribution
Photo 19-12 The facing polished and bolted to the firewall. Photo attribution

Window weatherization[edit]

Photo 19-13 The sealing strip used for the top and sides of the door glass. Photo attribution
The movable glass in the door windows requires special seal and weatherization materials. The seal around the top and sides of the window is U-shaped. The outer surface is rubber, and the inner surface is a fuzzy fabric that seals against the window glass (Photo 19-13). The seal is friction-fit into the window channel (Photo 19-14).
Photo 19-14 The seal is fitted into the window channel. Photo attribution

The seal where the glass passes down into the door is a bit different. The exterior side of the glass is sealed with tubular weatherstripping (Photo 19-15), which is available at most hardware stores. The seal is glued to the 1x1 tubing that forms the window opening Photo 19-16).

On the interior side of the glass, common 3/8" closed-cell weatherstrip is used (Photo 19-17). The purpose of this strip is primarily to keep the glass pushed up against the outer seal, so that excessive water will not run down inside the door.

Photo 19-15 Rubber weatherstripping is used to seal the outside of the glass where it slides down into the door cavity. Photo attribution
Photo 19-16 The strip is glued to the window frame (arrow). Photo attribution
Photo 19-17 Weatherization foam is attached to the inside of the window frame to hold the glass against the outer seal (arrows). Photo attribution

Tube grill[edit]

The "tubes" for the tube grill insert are actually not tubes at all. They are 3/8" fiberglass rods commonly used by farmers as posts for building electric fences. A bundle of twenty rods will cost less than $20 at most agricultural supply stores like Fleet Farm or Tractor Supply (Photo 19-18). These rods are ideal for this purpose because they are straight and have a very smooth finish.

The rods are cut long enough to extend just beyond the top and bottom of the grill shell opening. For this grill, the tube length was 21". The rods are then squared up in a temporary framework (Photo 19-19), and evenly arranged by inserting plastic spacers made for laying floor tile between each tube, at the top and bottom (Photo 19-20).

Photo 19-18 The grill "tubes" are fiberglass fence post rods. Photo attribution
Photo 19-19 The rods are cut to length and laid out in a temporary framework to keep everything square. Photo attribution
Photo 19-20 Floor tile spacers are used to keep a uniform distance between the tubes. Photo attribution

Strips of 1/4" Plexiglas are cut and epoxied to the tubes at the top and bottom to form a solid framework (Photo 19-21). The framework is then bolted into the back side of the grill shell (Photo 19-22). The tubing was painted with metallic silver paint, and the completed grill shell and tube insert are shown in Photo 19-23.

(Note to readers: Even during fabrication of this grill insert it was unknown if the epoxy and Plexiglas would hold up under normal driving conditions. After one year on the road, the tube insert has remained solid and stable and the "experimental design" seems to function quite adequately.)

Photo 19-21 A Plexiglas frame is epoxied to the tubes at the top and bottom. Photo attribution
Photo 19-22 The framework is bolted to tabs welded on the back side of the grill shell. Photo attribution
Photo 19-23 The completed tube grill insert. Photo attribution

Fuel gauge sending unit[edit]

Photo 19-24 The parts included in a generic fuel sending unit. Photo attribution
The project has a spun aluminum fuel tank; a brief search turned up nothing regarding a fuel gauge sending unit made specifically to mount on the rounded surface of these types of tanks. So, a generic sending unit was slightly modified for the task. The basic parts for the generic sender are shown in Photo 19-24. The mounting plate is removed from the sending unit, and is bent over a section of steel well casing (Photo 19-25).
Photo 19-25 The mounting plate is bent to match the curve of the fuel tank. Photo attribution
Photo 19-26 Holes are drilled to mount the sending unit. Photo attribution
Holes are drilled in the tank top using the mounting plate as a guide (Photo 19-26). The sending unit can then be mounted exactly as it would be mounted on a flat-topped tank (Photo 19-27).
Photo 19-27 The sending unit mounted on the tank. Photo attribution


A fairly simple graphic was created for the door panel inserts, and was shown in Chapter 16. A somewhat more complex graphic was done for the exterior of the car. Since Buster is the official "shop dog" who oversaw the fabrication of this project, it is only fitting that the car be named in his honor.

Using Photoshop, a fairly ordinary picture of Buster (Photo 19-28) and a picture of my roadster were combined and manipulated to put Buster in the driver's seat, paw on the wheel and ears flapping in the breeze (Photo 19-29). A logo for "Buster's Surf Shop" was added, and the digital image was taken to a local sign shop, where they printed up vinyl decals. The result is shown in Photo 19-30. And in case anyone is wondering, yes, Buster does live in Northern Wisconsin, more than 1,000 miles from anything even remotely resembling actual surf. But a dog can dream, right?

Photo 19-28 Buster, the supervising shop dog in charge of this project. Photo attribution
Photo 19-29 Buster gets photoshopped into the roadster. Photo attribution
Photo 19-30 The graphic is transferred to a vinyl decal and applied to the car. Photo attribution

The completed car[edit]

Here, at last, is the completed car. Approximately 3,000 hours were invested in the construction shown on these pages. However, this book has also shown dozens of other scratch-built cars that took far less time and far less work.

That's the joy of scratch building a hot rod. Builders can shoot for the stars, going for the most exotic rod they can dream up, or they can zero in on a simple, traditional body style with just the bare essentials necessary to keep it safe and fun on the highway. The choice is yours.

This just happens to be what I built. Now, it's time to see what you will build.

Photo 19-31 Photo attribution
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Photo 19-43 At Wisconsin Dells car show, 2010. Photo attribution
Photo 19-44 At "Back to the 50's", 2010 with son Vaughn and friend Sally. Photo attribution
Photo 19-45 The car and builder. Photo attribution


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